Joe Biden’s Plan to Beat COVID-19
Today, the trajectory of COVID-19 in America is headed in the wrong direction. In some parts of the country, the test positivity rate is climbing, hospitalizations are sky-rocketing, and testing sites are overwhelmed. Donald Trump’s catastrophic failures of governance have led to tens of thousands of needless deaths and economic pain for tens of millions of Americans. We are only four percent of the world’s population, yet we have 25 percent of the world’s cases and deaths. And, the United States is barely better equipped to manage the threat of COVID-19 today than we were six months ago. Every day that Trump wastes not acting, he squanders the sacrifices of the American people and sets our response and recovery back even further.
It is impossible to know what the state of the COVID-19 pandemic will be on the day Biden takes office, but if elected, Biden won’t wait to take action. Minutes after he is declared the winner of the election, Biden will make one of his first calls to Dr. Tony Fauci and ask him to extend his unprecedented record of service to six Presidents by serving one more. Dr. Fauci will have full access to the Oval Office and an uncensored platform to speak directly to the American people — whether delivering good news or bad.
During his transition, Biden will seek out governors and mayors and other leaders of both parties, from every state, territory, and tribe, and consult with education, technology, business, and labor leaders so he’s ready to hit the ground running and fight the virus as our next President.
Over the last four months, Joe Biden has laid out comprehensive plans with five basic elements that he would do as President to address COVID-19: (1) test-and-trace, (2) sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for all, (3) science-based treatments and vaccines, (4) steps to reopen safely and effectively, and (5) protecting those at high-risk, including older Americans.
Biden has repeatedly said he hopes that Trump will use these intervening months to adopt the policies he’s outlined. The health of our nation — and our economy — hang in the balance.
Today, Biden is updating his Plan to Combat COVID-19 for the current circumstances we face as a result of President Trump’s persistent failures:
Implement Widespread Testing-and-Tracing
The Trump Fiasco: The failure to test swiftly and broadly led to the failure to get the virus under control. After deflecting blame for months, Donald Trump has repeatedly doubled down on his orders to slow down testing. It is unacceptable that with cases surging in some parts of the country and Americans urged to go back to work in others, we still do not have the basic capacity in testing and contact tracing we need to sustainably manage this virus. In Arizona, this past week, Americans with COVID-19 have had to wait in baking hot cars in miles-long lines for a test, and those were the lucky ones who had an appointment. In March, Donald Trump claimed that every American who wanted a test could get one. It was a lie then. It’s still a lie.
The Biden Plan:
- Stand up a Pandemic Testing Board to massively surge a nationwide campaign and guarantee regular, reliable, and free access to testing for all, including every worker called back on the job .
- Double the number of drive-through testing sites and increase the numbers until there are no more lines.
- Build a national contact tracing workforce, starting by hiring at least 100,000 Americans and equipping sorely under-resourced public health departments with the resources they need to spot and stop outbreaks.
Establish Sustainable Supply Chain for PPE and Supplies and Help for Health Care Workers:
The Trump Fiasco: Months into this crisis, our health care workers are still forced to scramble for their own supplies and reuse masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) shift-after-shift. Hundreds of health care workers have died from COVID-19, and tens of thousands have been infected. This is heartbreaking — and a catastrophic failure of leadership. Health care workers put their lives on the line every day, and the risk they face is unacceptably compounded by the inconsistent and politized response to expert guidance, like social distancing and masks. Trump has abdicated responsibility, and turned his back on health care workers in their time of need.
The Biden Plan:
- Implement a coordinated, country-wide, future-facing national effort to acquire, produce, and distribute PPE, test kits and machines, lab supplies, and other critical supplies, including by fully utilizing the authorities under the Defense Production Action.
- Identify tomorrow’s needs for PPE, lab reagents, and test supplies when they run low, as well as replenish depleted supplies in hard-hit areas, especially for federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, safety-net hospitals, and nursing homes, which are typically resource-poor and disproportionately serve vulnerable populations that are bearing the brunt of COVID-19.
- Build now toward a future, flexible American-sourced and manufactured capability to ensure we are not vulnerable to supply chain disruptions in times of crisis.
In addition, Biden would ensure the U.S. government steps up for nurses, doctors and other health care workers and first responders, including by providing:
- Guaranteed priority access to national supplies of PPE.
- Premium Pay for health care workers for putting themselves at risk. There is no substitute for ensuring the safety of health care workers, but as Biden has said, everyone who puts their lives on the line should receive a boost in their paychecks.
- Emergency paid leave, which Biden has called for anyone who gets COVID-19 or needs to care for a loved one who has it.
- Free, accessible, and safe housing to enable health care workers to quarantine away from their loved ones as necessary.
- A Health Care Worker COVID-19 Consultation Hotline and strengthened clinician peer-to-peer learning, so that frontline staff do not have to rely on social media to learn best practices in treating COVID-19 patients.
- Access to an array of prevention and early intervention mental health services, including health-status monitoring, emotional-health support and psychological first aid, to every COVID-19 health care worker. Seeking help should not impact your current or future employment, including your ability to get a license. This is in addition to Biden’s robust commitment to ensuring every American has access to mental health insurance coverage and expanding immediate access to telemental health services by requiring all carriers — not just Medicare — to pay for telemental health services. There should be no barrier to mental health care in this crisis – none.
- The mobilization of health care workers nationwide, including assessing areas of need, developing a registry of volunteers, and ensuring that staffing gaps are voluntarily filled in a safe, sustainable way.
Accelerate the Development of Treatments and Vaccines:
The Trump Fiasco: Instead of listening to public health professionals, Trump pushes dangerous, disproven drugs. Our country is now stuck with a massive stockpile of hydroxychloroquine, a drug Trump repeatedly hailed. Trump’s vaccine development effort — “Operation Warp Speed” — lacks sound leadership, global vision, or a strategy for securing the necessary funding to see this mission through or secure trust from Americans who depend on its success. And, the Trump Administration’s management of our government’s critical medical research agencies has been marred by infighting, political pressure and retaliation, and calculated cronyism. We cannot allow the Trump Administration to repeat its continued failures on relatively simple tasks like getting masks to nurses and tests to nursing homes with the harder mission of treatments and vaccines. Too much is a stake.
The Biden Plan:
Biden would accelerate a coordinated global approach to develop, manufacture, and distribute a safe, effective vaccine, including:
- Ramp up the large-scale manufacturing of as many vaccine candidates as necessary
- Help secure COVID-19-related research from cyber threats.
- Proactively build a nationwide vaccination campaign, taking the steps now to guarantee the fair distribution of all vaccines.
- Immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization, which — while not perfect — is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.
- Establish and resource an Emerging Infectious Disease Clinical Trial Network to bring scientific talent together behind the most promising drugs instead of having different studies competing with each other for resources and patients.
- Ensure everyone — not just the wealthy and well-connected — in America receives the protection and care they deserve, and consumers are not price gouged as new drugs and therapies come to market.
Biden would also get ahead of this year’s seasonal flu by developing capacity now to ensure safe distribution and administration of seasonal flu vaccine — paired with an effective campaign to help people understand why getting a flu shot is so critical, especially this year. This effort must account for distribution in a time of social distancing, when Americans may not have access to providers from whom they normally receive the flu vaccine, including university and workplace clinics. This past flu season led to as many as 62,000 deaths and 740,000 hospitalizations, and the arrival of COVID-19 came to the United States just as the regular flu season was waning. We must prepare now for the possibility of simultaneous outbreaks of flu and COVID-19 that could overwhelm our public health system and confound our efforts to fight COVID-19.
The Trump Fiasco: While urging states to reopen as quickly as possible, Trump abdicated effective federal leadership, leaving state, tribal, and local officials to do their best without help from Washington. He has failed to deliver a unified plan for the country, advocated reopening in areas that couldn’t meet the guidance, and placed Americans at greater risk. Trump has sowed confusion and competition between states and repeatedly refused to serve as a role model or follow the guidance of our top scientists, further sowing chaos.
The Biden Plan: A stronger, more effective reopening recognizes that we won’t be able to solve the economic crisis in our country without a rigorous public health response. It requires clear, science-based, and nationwide public health guidance — including a clear, consistent message from the very top of our government on the importance of mask wearing — because we are one country with one population to protect. In addition to testing, contact tracing, and protecting older Americans, it would:
- Guarantee paid leave for all who get sick and for workers caring for family members or other loved ones sick with COVID-19.
- Ensure worker protection and accountability, including tasking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with setting and enforcing a rigorous emergency temporary standard so employers follow a clear set of rules to keep workers safe from COVID-19.
- Create a “Safer for Shoppers” program that gives compliant businesses a sign for their window so shoppers know they have done what they can to minimize the risk of exposure.
- Equip small business with an ambitious “restart package” that provides small business owners support for retaining and rehiring workers and covering other costs of restarting in this challenging environment.
- Assist schools and child care programs with re-opening, perhaps the single most important step to get parents back to work, including scaling-up NIH-funded COVID-19 pediatric research, building a Safer Schools Best Practices Clearinghouse, and providing the resources child care providers and schools — particularly Title I schools — need to safely reopen and help students who have fallen behind.
Protect Older Americans and Others at High Risk
The Trump Fiasco: Trump’s failure to organize a coherent and timely response to the crisis has placed older Americans and others at high-risk in even more vulnerable circumstances and left them behind without effective support or real options except to quarantine indefinitely. It is unconscionable that over 52,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19. The massive shortfall in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing has particularly heightened the risk of exposure, increased social isolation, and made more difficult the efforts to return all Americans – and especially older Americans – to something resembling normal life as safely and quickly as possible.
The Biden Plan:
- Ensure evidence-based guidance for each phase of reopening and an easy-to-read Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard that Americans can check in real-time to help them gauge whether local transmission is actively occurring in their zip codes. This information is critical to helping all individuals, but especially older Americans and others at high risk, understand what level of precaution to take.
- Ensure enough testing capacity so that people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are able to receive visitors safely.
- Boost Social Security payments by $200 a month and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15 percent in order to ensure that people on fixed incomes can weather the long arc of the pandemic. [Read Joe Biden’s previously released Plan for Older Americans, Plan for Supporting People with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Fact Sheet on How Joe Biden Would Help You Get Health Insurance Coverage During The COVID-19 Crisis.]